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  1. #1
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    building bikes and selling them as side cash flow

    hey, wondering if its worth sticking with this idea of building up bikes from cheap craigslist transactions and selling them to commuters/college students. Has anyone here had much success doing this?

    I don't know much about building bikes right now, I'm about to get started on my first build. Wondering if this might be a decent way to support my bike habit.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Ira B's Avatar
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    Done a bit of that but these days I usually just end up giving them away to people in need of wheels who are short on cash.
    It gives me a nice case of the warm squshies.
    Yep, THAT Ira

  3. #3
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    That's what roughly half of the sellers of bikes on Craigslist are doing...

    ...after a week the new owners end up taking 'em to a shop and spending another 50.00 to a 100.00 getting 'em fixed right anyway.

    Join the crowd...

    =8-)
    4000+ wheels built since 1984...

    Disclaimer:

    1. I do not claim to be an expert in bicycle mechanics despite my experience.
    2. I like anyone will comment in other areas.
    3. I do not own the preexisting concepts of DISH and ERD.
    4. I will provide information as I always have to others that I believe will help them protect themselves from unscrupulous mechanics.
    5. My all time favorite book is:

    Kahane, Howard. Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by UMassAm View Post
    I don't know much about building bikes right now, I'm about to get started on my first build.
    Do several of these and then the answer should be more obvious. The question isn't CAN it be done, yes it can. The real question is do YOU have the expertise and skill to do it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    I've been doing it for about 5 years now. Good news: My profit on a bike is usually between $100 to $140 per bike. Bad news: Finding bikes that I can make that kind of profit on is rare. I've been burned by buying a cheap bike in bad condition. Losing money due to a surprise happens. When it does, you lose. If it wasn't for cheap swapmeet parts & tires, the profit margin would be disaster.

    More bad news: My return per hour spent fixing up a bike is about $6-$8. I have to assume I'll be running into some of my buyers eventually. I want them to greet me fondly. That's the standard I try to deliver. I've spent about $150 on special tools.

    I enjoy the work. More entertaining than cable TV. Made a few thousand bucks over the years. It's not the road to riches.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

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    makes sense.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Merkel View Post
    usually between $100 to $140 per bike. I've spent about $150 on special tools.
    That is actually a very quick return on tools, all things considered

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhii View Post
    That is actually a very quick return on tools, all things considered
    Well, yes if all the profit is applied to tool payoff and none is applied to paying for your time.

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    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    I flip bikes ocassionally making anywhere from $40-$125 profit each, but for the amount of work put in, I would call it a self-sustaining hobby (offsetting the cost of building bikes for my personal or family use) not a sideline business. If I figured out the income per hour it produces I'd probably be better off taking the night shift at McDonalds. I find working on bikes theraputic and its rewarding to provide reasonably priced, reliable commuters for people who need them but there is no way I'd rely on it to pay the bills.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

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    Senior Member jet sanchEz's Avatar
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    You should browse the Classics and Vintage forum as well as read the "Bike Flipping 101" thread in the Classic and Vintage Appraisal forum, lots of people do it and it is probably what more than half of the folks are doing on CL.

    I started doing it about 8 years ago and it can be lucrative but I think it would be impossible to live off of it. If you have a good eye, you can make some good money for funding future bike projects. I keep in mind all of my past profits when I buy a new bike or a set of fancy wheels

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    im a pro wrench and select my flip bikes carefully. usually just get the bikes for free. i don't do much side line work

  12. #12
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhii View Post
    That is actually a very quick return on tools, all things considered
    I flunked accounting. The tools are considered part of my hobby. It's a hobby with a payout, just don't do the math to closely.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  13. #13
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    I do a few.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
    Since I'm retired, it's part hobby, but when you turn your hobby into a job, you ruin a hobby.
    Someday, I hope to profit enough to pay for my tools, except when I get halfway close, I buy more tools.
    I do some amount of free work for friends & their kids.
    In all, I maybe make $2/hour after deducting the box store mistakes I tried to flip.

  14. #14
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    Unless you have a good amount of experience and knowledge you will likely be in the position of those above who have made money but not much per hour. The mere fact that you refer to "building bikes" to sell tells me you are in the less experienced category. Due to paying retail for parts the best way to make money is to acquire bikes that need mainly reconditioning and adjustment, rather than rebuilding. Adjusting a hub takes a couple minutes. Overhauling a hub for many people can take 20-30 minutes, including an allowance for the time getting parts. Most buyers will not pay that much more for an overhauled hub. One bad hub means you have to get a wheel - more cost. The other problem is that a novice mechanic will often spend much time with trial and error trying to figure out a problem, which is why you see someone spending too much time per bike. Hopefully Merkel made a math error above, but spending well over 10 hours per bike ($100 per bike/$8 per hr) is excessive. A good mechanic can do a very thorough complete overhaul in half that time.

    Craigslist is also a poor place to pick up bikes. As noted many are trying to turn a profit, others overestimate what their bike (or any item) is worth. I would suggest you try things out by first getting bikes at garage sales that are rideable as-is but have loose brakes, somewhat out of true wheels, etc - perhaps even some mud, but NO significant rust. See if you can turn them around at a decent return per hour.
    There's no such thing as a routine repair.

    Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

    If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

    Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    In my time estimate, I add time spent buying parts, test riding and re-adjusting. 10 hours is the figure for a strip down to bare frame and re-assemble to best riding condition. Of the last two bikes I acquired, one was $15, one was free. Neither had been ridden in 30 years. Both had the original tires complete with tire tits. These are the most desirable.

    Got a good idea what kind of return I can get for a bike. I'm only doing about 6 bikes a year now.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  16. #16
    Keepin it Wheel RubeRad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Merkel View Post
    Both had the original tires complete with tire tits. These are the most desirable.
    "Tire tits"? Is that the name for the little straggly rubber mold stringies on new tires? If my wife had "tire tits", I would not find that desirable.

  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    don't know much about building bikes right now, I'm about to get started on my first build. Wondering if this might be a decent way to support my bike habit.
    one thing , in order to get the parts you need at other than just buying them at Retail ,
    you have to present a Business License to the distributors..


    If UMassAm is an indication of location ,
    students abandon bikes when their Graduation
    has them not needing them and its a bother to take them home.

    so Get in sync with Campus security,
    they likely cut locks to clear the racks of abandoned bikes
    at the end of the school year.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-15-12 at 02:44 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    one thing , in order to get the parts you need at other than just buying them at Retail ,
    you have to present a Business License to the distributors..
    Even then most distributors want to see a brick and mortar store front...Seattle Bike Supply seems to be an exception.

    =8-)
    4000+ wheels built since 1984...

    Disclaimer:

    1. I do not claim to be an expert in bicycle mechanics despite my experience.
    2. I like anyone will comment in other areas.
    3. I do not own the preexisting concepts of DISH and ERD.
    4. I will provide information as I always have to others that I believe will help them protect themselves from unscrupulous mechanics.
    5. My all time favorite book is:

    Kahane, Howard. Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life

  19. #19
    Jack of all trades anixi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Merkel View Post

    More bad news: My return per hour spent fixing up a bike is about $6-$8.
    Wow! You're making twice / hour more than me! Honestly, this is NO way to make money on the side. It's probably better to deliver pizzas!
    Put me back on my bike! -- Tom Simpson

  20. #20
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anixi View Post
    Wow! You're making twice / hour more than me! Honestly, this is NO way to make money on the side. It's probably better to deliver pizzas!
    It's a hobby with benefits. I'm not going for speed of production. The Merkel pride insists on quality.

    Just went and looked at three bikes for $60 the lot. At one time, I would have bought them. One was a women's 3 speed, brand unknown, a Fuji folding mountain bike, and a pseudo-Schwinn 80s vintage mountain bike. All were heavily rusted in spots. Components were missing or sun rotted. $20 for the lot would be generous. I'm passing.

    The 3-speed could be a cool restoration project. As a money-maker, no. The Schwinn MTB could bring 80-90 bucks after spending about $40-$50 on parts at minimum. The Fuji was a loser.

    http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/bik/3240165118.html
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  21. #21
    Mechanic/Tourist
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    Here is an example of what one can do with not even dedicated searching or much labor. I had a budget for a touring bike that was less than what I needed to cover the cost of a new one. So I bought a Trek touring bike on one of the more obscure bike forums, and in spite of assurances from the seller the frame was larger than advertised. So I took off the fenders, computer and racks and the Brooks B-17 saddle, easily sold the bike, the saddle and the rack for a total of $120 more than I paid.

    Then I found a C'dale road bike with a great saddle at a garage sale for $90. I replaced the saddle tuned it up, cleaned it and put on new tires, sold for $175.

    I ended up with $200 extra for the Novara Randonee I wanted along with a saddle, computer and front and rear touring racks.

    If you want to make the most money it's actually easier getting a higher quality bike that's in fairly good shape and paying more initially, rather than getting a beat up one at a "bargain" price and then putting in large amounts of time and money. People often sell good bikes that need work, or that they need to sell quickly, at a relative bargain price, but the same bike in great condition can sell for quite a bit more. One will also attract a lot more attention if known for having a line on quality bikes than if you're just another person selling run-of-the-mill ones.
    Last edited by cny-bikeman; 09-19-12 at 12:26 PM.
    There's no such thing as a routine repair.

    Don't tell me what "should" be - either it is, it isn't, or do something about it.

    If you think I'm being blunt take it as a compliment - if I thought you were too weak to handle the truth or a strong opinion I would not bother.

    Please take the time to post clearly so we can answer quickly. All lowercase and multiple typos makes for a hard read. Thanks!

  22. #22
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    For those bike geeks in or near a college town, probably the potential benefits of tuning or selling bikes to some of the students has benefits beyond the strickly monetary ones!

  23. #23
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksisler View Post
    For those bike geeks in or near a college town, probably the potential benefits of tuning or selling bikes to some of the students has benefits beyond the strickly monetary ones!
    Yes it does, it allows LBS mechanics to work on their "good guy" / "bad guy" routine.

    Scene: Poorly scrapped together "works like new!" Craigslist bike comes in with a brand new but incorrectly installed dual-pivot brake post purchase.

    Girl: (Quietly awaits...)

    Mean Mechanic: Your boyfriend did a poor job of routing the housing, placing the serrated washer, and adjusting the pivot balance.

    Nice Mechanic: Hey dude! Be nice, her boyfriend was just being nice and all doing here a favor. Give him a break!

    Girl: (Rolls her eyes with a smile.) Thanks guys, appreciate whatever you can do for me....


    =8-)
    4000+ wheels built since 1984...

    Disclaimer:

    1. I do not claim to be an expert in bicycle mechanics despite my experience.
    2. I like anyone will comment in other areas.
    3. I do not own the preexisting concepts of DISH and ERD.
    4. I will provide information as I always have to others that I believe will help them protect themselves from unscrupulous mechanics.
    5. My all time favorite book is:

    Kahane, Howard. Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life

  24. #24
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    I forget what I was going to say, now

  25. #25
    Hello zebede's Avatar
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    It's a great way to fund your hobby/passion. It keeps me in pocket cash I am a perfectionist so repairs take me FAR longer than a pro. If I computed my my hourly wage I would do fat better delivering pizzas. I prefer to try and flip nicer bikes and steer clear of the low end. I leave that to my neighbor who is like a used car dealer and will flip a $5 dollar bike for $30 after painting the tires with flat black paint! He is a HACK mechanic and brings me the ones he can't fix. [He has also broken my tools]

    I was fortunate to buy a small bike shop inventory tools and stand that went out of business a few years back.. I am still working off those parts. I have made that investment back five times over NOT COUNTING LABOR. As mentioned above go to C&V.

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